Gabrielle Union Has Something To Say To Anyone Who Blames Sexual Assault On A Victim's Clothing

"Sexual violence and harassment can happen to anyone."

In a powerful Twitter post on Sunday, actress Gabrielle Union dispelled a dangerous myth about sexual assault. Her comments come as many men and women in and out of Hollywood have spoken up about their own experiences with harassment or assault, in light of dozens of accusations being made in Hollywood.


Union challenged the victim-blaming mentality that sexual assault is linked to clothing — that those showing skin are "asking for it," while those who dress modestly are protecting themselves. The Being Mary Jane star reminded followers, "I got raped at work at a Payless shoe store. I had on a long tunic & leggings so miss me w/ 'dress modestly' shit."

To demonstrate just how common this misconception can be, Union went on to share that a female friend had later asked her what she was wearing when the assault occurred. As the actress stressed in an earlier post, "Sexual violence & harassment can happen to anyone at anytime [sic] anywhere."

Although Union didn't call anyone out directly, her tweets arrived in the midst of controversy around a New York Times op-ed penned by Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik. In it, Bialik writes of making "self-protecting and wise" choices as an actress in Hollywood: "I have decided that my sexual self is best reserved for private situations with those I am most intimate with. I dress modestly. I don't act flirtatiously with men as a policy."

Many believed that Bialik was implying that modest dress and an appearance which doesn't meet typical Hollywood standards of beauty have protected her from the types of encounters described by Harvey Weinstein's alleged victims. "Nothing — absolutely nothing — excuses men for assaulting or abusing women," Bialik writes. "But we can't be naïve about the culture we live in."

Bialik wrote on social media over the weekend that her words had been taken out of context, sharing, "Anyone who knows me and my feminism knows that's absurd and not at all what this piece was about."

Union's story demonstrates, as she said, that assault and harassment can happen to anyone, regardless of what they're wearing — and policing women's clothing or behavior is not the answer to ending these crimes, or the culture which frequently condones or excuses them.

As former Vice President Joe Biden stressed earlier this year during a speech for the It's On Us campaign, "A young woman standing here could take all her clothes off and walk out the door. She could be arrested for indecent exposure, but no man has a right to lay a hand on her at all. None, none, none, none, none."

Union's post has inspired others to share their own stories and support. As one user pointed out, it's time for the conversation around sexual assault to shift away from what the victims could have done differently and instead place responsibility on the perpetrator. The message, in other words, shouldn't be "dress modestly," but rather, "don't rape."

Union wrote about her rape in further detail in her new memoir, We're Going to Need More Wine. According to People, her rapist took a plea deal for 33 years in prison, and Union won a negligence suit against Payless. 

"Each time I tell the story is a revelation that I need to keep sharing since there's so many more victims than survivors," she told the magazine. "They need to know healing is a process — a slow process like moving a boulder uphill with one hand tied behind your back, but there is hope. I will never stop sharing, and I will try to educate as much as I can for the voiceless and for people who didn't get my treatment."

(H/T: E! Online)

Cover image via Instagram


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